In Names on a Map, Benjamin Alire Saenz tells of the Espejo family, one of the thousands of families that did not manage to survive the Viet Nam War intact. Octavio Espejo, who was brought to the
The war in
Gustavo knows that his father expects him to serve if called and that he will be proud to have a son fight for his adopted country. He knows that his mother is terrified at the thought of losing him in this war but that she will not try to influence his decision. He knows that his twin sister can hardly stand the thought of him leaving home and that his young brother, Charlie, loves him more than anything in the world. But he also knows that the ultimate decision is his. Should he allow himself to be drafted? Should he choose prison over induction into the military, or should he cross the border into
Names on a Map consists of short, alternating sections in which Saenz allows each of his main characters to speak in a unique voice and from a personal point-of-view. He often describes the same scene through the eyes of three or four members of the Espejo family, allowing the reader to view all of the cracks and strong points of a family stretched to its breaking point.
Saenz sympathetically describes the motivations and emotions of those on both sides of the Viet Nam War debate and readers who lived through that era are certain to see themselves, their families and their friends in some of his characters. Those too young to have lived that part of American history, will come away with a better understanding of the period and will recognize the parallels to
Rated at: 4.0